The picture is now crystal clear. Boston has figured Montreal out, and Montreal doesn’t know how to figure Boston out. Claude Julien understands how playoff hockey works, adjusted nicely, and his team has delivered.
Tonight, it became a 5-4 Bruins win, and it was a game that surely has left all Habs fans grumbling and more than slightly pissed off.
Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau has not been able to light a fire under his boys, and so again, in this game six, it meant four Boston goals in the third period, the same as in game five. It meant five goals scored again by Boston, the same as in game five. It meant that again, Montreal was flat, their power play was flat, and although Chris Higgins and Tomas Plekanec finally broke out of their scoreless draught, it was a non-effort by almost everyone on the Montreal team.
Or maybe it wasn’t so much a non-effort by Montreal, but a better effort by Boston.
So I don’t want to but I have to ask this one question, a question which makes me uneasy, but I feel must be addressed. Are there too many Europeans on the Montreal Canadiens to understand what it takes to win in playoff hockey?
The playoffs aren’t the regular season. And for a couple of decades now, we’ve seen many examples of players from across the pond not understanding the importance of the Stanley Cup, unlike North Americans, especially Canadians, who have this emotion implanted in their hearts and souls.
I hear from Canucks fans all the time how the Sedin twins, from Sweden, are the furthest things from playoff performers.
If you say this is bullshit and I’m out of line, then where have the European Habs gone?
Russian-born Alex Kovalev, mentioned as a possible league MVP, has brought his game down a couple of serious notches and is no more the straw that stirs the drink during Montreal’s once daunting power play. The Kostitsyn’s, from Belarus, can’t crack Boston’s playoff checking. Tomas Plekanec, from the Czech Republic, was an offensive marvel during the regular season, and now is playing like he’d rather be some place else. Switzerland’s Mark Streit is playing like he belongs in the American Hockey League.
Even Russian Andrei Markov, frequently called one of the top defensemen in the entire league, has posed no threat whatsoever.
This is a very disappointing turn of events. It was such a short time ago that talk of a Stanley Cup was rampant throughout Hab universe, but now this is a team hanging by a thread, playing scared, playing tight and nervous, while Boston is a team of happy campers, feeling good about themselves, and can’t wait for game seven Monday night.
Of course Montreal can redeem themselves in one game and make everyone forget they haven’t deserved this series. They can win still, make no mistake about that. They’ve been a team of surprises all year, and now it’s time to pull one last trick out of their bag.
But so far, and it pains me to say this, I haven’t seen a Stanley Cup contender from my Montreal Canadiens.